Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon
This might be a surprise for some as I’m such a city girl but I grew up in a farming family. This meant there were no ‘real pets’, there were sheep dogs and farm cats. Some were friendly, some weren’t. I still loved them as I’m sure my relatives who cared for them did.
However, when I compare their lifestyle to my own dogs' lifestyle I can see why my pet ownership skills raise some eyebrows in my family. My grandfather’s prized sheep-dogs lived in a stable. It was weather tight and warm. But the bedding was a blanket on straw. There was no electricity to the stable, let alone heating or light. He loved these dogs, made his livelihood from them and bred well-regarded pups from them. Yet looking back I wonder how warm and cosy these dogs were in winter.
Fast forward from that stable to my own dogs. Admittedly the Peke breed isn’t really designed for outdoor activities. Legend has it they were bred to guard palaces in China. I know that Hollie believes she deserves to live in a palace. How would she ever cope with an unheated unlit stable?
To keep her warm in winter we have a few options. It’s one of these in particular that seems to attract attention. She wears clothes. She has a little collection of jumpers, hoodies and t-shirts. There’s also a snazzy waterproof coat. I can’t imagine sheepdogs wearing any of these. Yet Hollie wears them happily and when its cold looks for them to be put on. Yet the clothes get commented on. How cute is the jumper, look at that dress etc. My dad used to like to comment ‘she’s got a fur coat she doesn’t need another’. Although as time has moved on this has stopped and I think he sees that it’s sensible to keep dogs warm. Not mollycoddling.
Is a jumper a step too far in keeping your pet warm?
Obviously, I don’t think so but I’m sure there are still people who see me with my little dog, that’s wearing a jumper, and assume I’m dressing her up for my benefit, not hers. I’m pretty sure I get judged by other dog walkers! That may be as I try to incorporate fashion and warmth but you can look sensible while keeping warm.
Keeping our patients warm in practice is a hot topic. ‘Scuse the pun. We know we need to warm patients but also that accidents from this can cause pain and injury.
How do we safely advise clients about keeping their pets warm?
I’m a big fan of BSAVA pet savers heat pads, we’re on our second one. There might have been a week of 35-degree heat in August where it was switched off but apart from that, the cat is on it constantly. Not bad for less than £40!
BSAVA have also got some information about the ways bodies lose heat.
It helps us plan how we will keep pets warm.
For home care, I’m glad to see that wearing a jumper will help stop all 4 ways the body can lose heat! In fact, our elderly cat has been promoted to wearing clothes this winter. She’s getting old and has lost some weight. So she’s in a new born baby grow at the moment until I order something more substantial.
Aside from heat pads and clothing, you might want to advise people to keep pet beds out of drafts. Consider a rain coat for wet days and drying a dog with a towel once you are home.
But overall it looks like clothes for dogs, fashionable, practical or otherwise, are the way to have a happy pet this winter.